Elders from Benue have urged President Buhari to declare the invasion of their lands by Fulani herdsmen as an act of terrorist and thus treat them same way insurgents are treated, using the full military might of the military.
“We observed that these invading Fulani Herdsmen have been allowed to bear sophisticated assault weapons unchallenged which is against all our extant laws. The perpetrators and sponsors of such heinous crimes against humanity must be brought to justice”. The elders said.
The elders made their joint statements known through a communiqué issued at the end of a unity meeting held in Makurdi and attended by the leaders of Tiv, Idoma and Igede. The elders noted that the meeting became necessary following ‘the armed invasion and occupation of their land by Fulani herdsmen and the wanton killing of their people, destruction of homes and farmlands, raping of their wives and daughters in 15 Local Government Areas out of 23 namely, Agatu, Gwer East, Gwer West, Makurdi, Guma, Tarka, Buruku, Katsina Ala, Logo, Ukum, Kwande, Oju, Obi and Konshisha’.
Leaders and elders of Mdzough U Tiv (MUT), Idoma National Forum (INF) and Omi Ny’Igede, also rejected the proposed Town Hall Meeting by the Federal Government, insisting that only an inclusive Judicial Commission of Enquiry can unravel the root cause(s) of the invasion of Benue by Fulani herdsmen and the gruesome massacre of the people by the armed herders.
“The delay in setting up the Presidential Investigation Panel promised by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is becoming worrisome”.
“The proposed Town Hall Meeting by the Federal Government is not only diversionary, but a deliberate ploy to downplay the degree of attention and seriousness that should be accorded the invasion of our land. We wonder why the same Government that promised to set up an investigation committee is now resorting to a mere ruse called ‘Town Hall Meeting’
The forum urged the FG to tighten security and put in place strong measures in protecting the country porous borders to prevent further continuous and uncontrolled entrance of international criminal elements, herdsmen and arms. They urged the National Assembly to commence a public hearing on the Fulani herdsmen threat to national security without delay while the state lawmakers should enact laws to criminalize open grazing as it directly conflicts with the livelihood of Benue people which is crop farming.
“Our people are predominantly farmers with fixed land and growing population, we therefore, reject the idea of having open grazing lands and cattle routes on our land to avoid any conflict as we do not have sufficient land for that purpose. Government should encourage those engaged in cattle rearing business to establish private ranches in line with global best practices instead of the open and uncontrolled grazing that frequently results in violent clashes with farmers”.
“The Benue State Government should as a matter of urgency constitute an inclusive Judicial Panel of Enquiry for a public hearing on the state of security in Benue State”.
“The office of the National Security Adviser should as a matter of urgency address the nation on the state of insecurity in the country particularly as it relates to the activities of Fulani Herdsmen”.
“We advise that all relevant government agencies saddled with the responsibilities of home land security begin the process of disarming Fulani Herdsmen across the country to avoid a counter arms buildup by helpless communities in self-defense”.
“All Herdsmen in Benue State should relocate immediately to allow our farmers go to their farms without fear of being attacked as the farming season approaches in order to avoid severe famine next year”.
“Our people and land owners particularly traditional rulers and chiefs should hence forth stop leasing our land for grazing purposes whether on a temporary basis or otherwise”.
“Since cattle are at the center of these dastardly acts and are seen to be superior to our lives, we have resolved to desist from consuming beef or cow milk as an economic sanction and moral responsibility”.
“Government should put in place infrastructure in form of good access roads to facilitate easy access of security operatives to these remote areas which are often subject of attack by these marauders”.
The forum called on the International community to rise to their plight by enforcing their fundamental human rights in the face of the incessant invasion of their land and killing and maiming of their people.
The well-attended meeting was blessed with presence of the Catholic Bishop of Gboko Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Williams Avenya and that of Katsina-Ala Diocese, Most Rev. Dr. Peter Adobo to give their fatherly advice. The communiqué was jointly signed by Chief Edward Ujege, President-General of Mdzough U TIV (MUT), Dr. Okopi Momoh, President of Idoma National Forum (INF) and Chief Ode Enyi, President-General of Omi Ny Igede.